Prison Term Policy Recommendation
Bills are passed or rejected all the time, and some that are passed do not provide any real benefit. The goal is to lower the number of bills that are not beneficial, and raise the number of bills that actually make a difference in society. One of the ways to pass better bills is to carefully consider criminology and the statistics regarding it (Barak, 1998). When a bill offers exactly what it claims to, and when that offering is needed by society, the bill can have a higher degree of expected success and can provide more of what society needs. Addressed here is a bill that is focused on armed robbery and prison terms. The objectives and goals of the bill will be discussed, along with possible solutions for the bill and whether it should or should not be approved in its current form.
Objectives of the Bill
The main objective of the bill is to keep violent criminals (armed robbers) in prison for a longer period of time. By doubling the prison sentence for a crime, a person who commits that crime will remain off the streets and unable to commit future crimes many more months or years, leading to increased safety for citizens (Deflem, 2006). While a bill that requires longer prison terms will not necessarily keep every criminal in prison long enough for that person to be rehabilitated, the bill can provide a feeling of safety and security for those who have been a victim of violent crime (Deflem, 2006). In this case that violent crime is armed robbery, which can lead to even more serious crimes (such as murder) in some cases. The value to society in stopping armed robbery is a strong one, and the more these criminals can be discouraged the better it will be for everyone.
Goals of the Bill
The goal of the bill is to keep violent criminals off the streets for a longer time frame once they are convicted. By doubling the length of time an armed robber will be imprisoned, the bill is making the streets safer and keeping violent criminals locked away. Additionally, some who were considering this criminal act may be discouraged by the length of time they will remain in prison if they are caught and convicted, so they may decide that they will not commit this crime. Discouraging a potential criminal from committing an illegal act is one of the benefits of strict laws and longer prison sentenced (Barak, 1998). Of course, not all potential criminals care about that or take it seriously. For those who do, longer sentences can be an excellent tool for discouragement when it comes to committing crimes. If even one potential criminal avoids an illegal act because of a bill providing longer prison terms, that can be considered a success in the eyes of many people.
Possible Solutions for the Bill
The value of a bill must not only be measured in whether it discourages criminality or rehabilitates (and properly punishes) criminals (Deflem, 2006). There is much more to a bill than that, including how difficult it will be to enforce in light of issues such as the cost of keeping a prisoner in jail and the overcrowding that prisons and jails are seeing across the country. There are ways to discourage criminality without making sentences longer, but violent crimes do have to be taken seriously. Perhaps solutions need to go back to some of what was done in the older days of criminal punishment, when there were chain gangs and other methods of disciplining prisoners that did not simply put them into a building and a room all day. Additionally, there are other methods of holding them, such as the tent cities that have been built by Joe Arpaio in Arizona to house prisoners.
Justification for Approving the Bill
Despite the concerns with prison overcrowding and financial matters, this bill that makes the sentence for armed robbery twice as long should be approved. The criminal justice system is no longer as strong as it used to be, and a number of offenders — including those who are violent — are being returned to the streets after a very short stay behind bars. The proverbial “slap on the wrist” that the majority of convicted criminals receive today is laughable to many of them, and to many who consider committing crimes. When these people do not fear the criminal justice system, they are going to continue to commit crimes, simply because they know they will not be in prison very long, if at all (Barak, 1998). That does not punish the offenders, nor does it do anything to correctly protect society. Tougher laws and longer prison terms for violent offenders are needed, because they can start to convince some potential criminals that the crime they are considering is not worth it (Deflem, 2006). Prison should be a true punishment, and a place to which no one ever wants to return, not a type of vacation before getting back to criminal behavior.
No bill is perfect. There are always going to be questions about the proper way to handle things or the right amount of punishment. However, that does not mean that bills should not be introduced and passed — especially when they are advocating for tougher sentences for criminals who are committing violent crimes. Armed robbery is a serious offense, and can often turn into assault and even murder if the target of the robbery is uncooperative or something else goes wrong with the robber’s plan. While there are a number of people locked away for non-violent offenses, too many violent offenders still walk the streets. That is something this bill is looking to properly address, and it is time something is done.
Barak, G. (ed.). (1998). Integrative criminology (International Library of Criminology, Criminal Justice & Penology.). Aldershot, UK: Ashgate/Dartmouth.
Deflem, M. (ed.) (2006). Sociological theory and criminological research: Views from Europe and the United States. NY: Elsevier.
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